[Submitted by Diane Dickinson, owner/operator of Shepherd’s Cross. Diane and her husband Peter operate a diversified farm in Claremore, OK that offers a wide range of products — including their Animal Welfare Approved (AWA) lamb and beef.]
Shepherd’s Cross is the name of the Dickinson family farm located just north of Claremore, off of Scenic route 66, and Heart of the Shepherd is the Christian Public Non-Profit (501-C3) that operates at the farm.
Peter and I were both raised on family farms. It is difficult for family farms to persist at this time in America’s history, and both Peter and I watched as our ancestor’s family farms were divided, sold and dispersed. We had a longing to raise our family on a farm, and we saved our pennies after college, and eventually purchased the farm known as Shepherd’s Cross. It is here that we raised our family. Shepherd’s Cross is a family owned and operated farm. Other workers assist us on the farm, and we are grateful for the many helping hands the Lord sends. After 25 years, the farm remains a family farm.
In addition to beginning our farm, there was another burning desire buried in our hearts. We had witnessed how a family farm may not last forever. The skills of farming, however, can be passed from generations to generation, and yet, even those skills can dissipate if not used in future generations. After prayerful contemplation, we realized that the only thing that lives forever is The Word of God. This compelled us to share God’s Word as it relates to farming. This led to the development of two organizations, the farm “Shepherd’s Cross” and the mission “Heart of the Shepherd”.
We prayerfully contemplated what to produce on the farm. We had both been raised on cattle and horse ranches, and thought perhaps that is what we would do. However, God had a different plan for us. I am a licensed veterinarian, and at the time was known in the community for my veterinary work on sheep and goats. In the end we decided the direction was to “feed the sheep.” The flock began with 12 sheep in the early 90’s and now has grown to a flock of several hundred. Shepherd’s Cross has developed our own breed of sheep called Shepherd’s Cross Sheep. These sheep are similar to heritage breed sheep in many ways. They are able to survive and thrive by living on grass in the great outdoors, and are great producers of meat, wool and milk. They are similar to many of the nomadic herds of sheep that we have seen around the world.
The farm is Animal Welfare Approved, and we believe in caring well for the livestock, the land, and natural resources. This is a difficult certification to obtain, and yet the standards of Animal Welfare Approved were the standards instituted on the farm for nearly two decades prior to the certification. Natural, healthy, outdoor living in grassy meadows for the livestock; no chemical usage on the farm; and being kind, caring and protective of the livestock are paramount principles adhered to on our farm.
Sheep meat comes in two forms – lamb (which is not a baby – but a full grown animal) or mutton, which is sheep that is over one year of age. Shepherd’s Cross meat is more like the meat produced on the grassy hillsides of Scotland and Wales. This meat is nutrient dense, hypo-allergenic and easily digestible.
A variety of unique sheep sausages are available, that have no preservatives or coloring agents or other meats or additives. These are made from the whole sheep, and not just the trimmings; consequently they are low in fat, and high in nutrient density. The Jerky snack sticks are kept in the freezer – since they have no preservatives.
Shepherd’s Cross Wool Products are one of only a handful in the United States with the Animal Welfare Approved label. Wool is primarily processed on site in the mini-Wool Mill established there over the years. Natural homemade soap is used in the wool mill, allowing the wool to retain it natural softness, and nature of being fire resistant.
The farm is diversified, and also raises Animal Welfare Approved, grass fed and finished Dexter Cattle. This beef is lean and nutrient dense. Dexter Cattle are on the Slow Food list.
Our farm also has honey bees, chickens, alpaca, horses, geese, peacocks, donkeys, lamas, and so much more! We also harvest Black Walnuts, and are a buy up station for Black Walnuts. If you have some kicking around in your yard, bring them to the farm in the fall for cash! We harvest pecans and our own chemical free hay. Our family lives from the produce of the garden, and can and freeze that produce for the winter. Clean eating has been a part of our lives for decades.
Our farm hosts an Internship and Residency program that provides college credit. Approximately 30 interns, from many states, have graduated this program.
Shepherd’s Shop is a quaint country shop on the farm, open Tuesday through Saturday. The shop features many unique farm raised wool products, grass fed, farm raised meat, honey and so much more.
Farm tours are provided by Heart of the Shepherd. In addition, Heart of the Shepherd provides learning opportunities through the Farm Museum, Educational Silo, Wool Mill, and Bible Garden. Drop by any Thursday, Friday or Saturday for a farm tour. Visitors to the farm may attend on a donation basis.
Heart of the Shepherd is a charitable organization currently working with organizations and individuals in approximately twenty nations. Their primary work is with rural, impoverished villagers. The work varies according to the need, however some of the things they do include: starter flocks and herds for villages and orphanages; animal husbandry training; veterinary training; veterinary medical outreach programs; starter non-electric wool mills; and other farming and gardening principles and parables. This organization operates through the generous donations of many individuals, and supported by the community. Heart of the Shepherd is a Public Christian Non-Profit that will leave a legacy of farming, shepherding, and gardening for generations to come.
The Dickinsons appreciate the Oklahoma Food Cooperative, and the wonderful, loving attitudes of the Coop members. We feel like family. Thank you for caring about farms, and individuals in this generation and future generations.
Together we can make a difference in this generation and the next. Start where you are planted. We have been planted as shepherds to a flock of sheep, and we love tending them and learning from them.
Shepherding the Flock,
Dr. Diane Dickinson
16792 E 450 Rd, Claremore OK 74017